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Pole to Pole

Day 139: Patriot Hills

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleNo waste of any kind is allowed to be left in Antarctica. Any effluent, human or otherwise, will make an epic journey, not via some dark drain and sewer, but by Bruce's Douglas DC-6, 1700 miles back to South America to be finally disposed of. Later I notice one of the staff replacing the lavatory bag. It has 'Felices Fiestas' and pictures of Father Christmas all over it. Mike Sharp and his staff of five are, quite rightly, concerned to limit any pollution of this still pristine continent. Men are allowed to pee on the ice but only at a certain spot, marked by a red flag, which gives vital wind direction information as well. Anyone who thinks they can get away with a quick one outside the tent is in for a shock, as urine turns the snow bright orange.

There is a chance that we could go to the Pole tomorrow. Weather is being checked with the Amundsen-Scott base there. What little human activity there is in Antarctica is centred around a number of scientific research stations. (An international treaty bans, for the next fifty years, any exploration or exploitation of mineral rights, so the big-money boys are not here, yet.) These stations or bases rely on each other for information and they chat at various times of the day, like fellow members of an exclusive club, often without ever meeting.

Adventure Network is the only tourist operation on the continent. There would be more if Mike Sharp had his way.

'You get so many different people through here . . . sixty or so in a season . . . before, it was always closed up, and the governments had control over Antarctica. I mean, someone like the BBC, for instance, would have to follow the British government's line on Antarctica, whereas now they can just be free to look at the place . . . and it's made a difference. Government organizations are clearing up their fuel drums and getting their garbage out of here, whereas in the past they just dumped it.'
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 139
  • Country/sea: Antarctica
  • Place: Patriot Hills
  • Book page no: 313

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